Tag Archives: music

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Dyad

I don’t know how to immediately describe Dyad. I played it, I got three stars on some objectives, I did what I was told to do, and yet–I am lacking the words to describe the overall experience. Or maybe experience is the perfect word for it. It’s a thing you experience, from its visuals to its sounds to the way it feels to zip forward and backward in a futuristic tunnel-landscape that continuously throws shapes and colors and hazards at you, all while keeping the momentum somehow frantically chill. I really don’t understand, but that’s okay. Some things in life are meant to be mysterious or undefined, and that’s that.

Here, I’ll use some words stolen from Dyad‘s Steam page: experience a mind-bending, psychedelic sensory overload. Blast through a reactive audio-visual tube creating a harmonious synthesis of color and sound as you hook, graze, and lance enemies to master Dyad‘s 27 unique levels. Sure, that’s a better description than I could ever come up with and, at the same time, is still difficult to parse. Also, I only played through the first eight levels, under the menu strangely titled 2.76 TeV. Again, I’m dumbfounded or I’m just plain dumb to whatever this game is trying to communicate–you tell me. Also, please don’t actually call me dumb, I’m feeling extra sensitive lately.

Dyad basically is its own language. A language of drugs, of violence, of premium, utopian bliss. There are terms for everything you do, such as hooking enemy pairs, lancing enemies, grazing, and so on. They mean things, specific actions. Many of the missions task you with doing a certain amount of these actions or simply racing through a number of sectors, with these actions earning you points throughout. The more points the better, obviously. The goal is always to do what the mission says while also hitting three stars, because getting those opens up trophy and remix versions of the level. The trophy missions are naturally tied to unlocking an actual Trophy, while the remixes are more about…well, mixing things up. As if the standard space-flight down the tube wasn’t zany enough.

I have another game similar to Dyad on my soon-to-play PlayStation Plus purging list, but it is only similar in that it is also described as a drugs game–Hohokum. I don’t do recreational drugs, just ZzzQuil and whatever my oncologist is giving me for my cancer, but those drugs don’t have the same effect as the ones people probably like doing before playing games of this nature. I once got super drunk and had a really fun time playing against bots in Red Faction II‘s multiplayer mode, but that’s probably about it for me and my wild side.

Dyad is certainly right for someone, just not me.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic

First things first–um, what?! Secondly, no, really, what even is this? Lastly, I don’t understand. A part of me really wishes to leave those few lines to describe my short time with Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic, but the writer in me knows that just won’t happen. Plus, it’s always more fun to write about poor games than great games, strange as that may seem.

Developed by Tarsier Studios, Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic is an exclusive party-fighting game for the PlayStation 3, focusing more on exaggerated physics than anything else. Certainly, this game has an imaginative look and feel, with the characters acting like puppets minus the strings. There’s a strong attention to detail for the fighting arenas, which are intricate miniature playsets. The characters themselves also look sharp, with plenty of light bloom to go around, and their limp rag doll movement is fun to watch…for a bit. Playing the game is not as enjoyable.

Your battling success depends on mastering basic kung fu moves while using acrobatic skills to swing off platforms and somersault through the air. There’s an unfortunate heavy reliance on motion controls. Still, face buttons are used to punch, kick, jump, and block, and basic combos can be performed by stringing these together. You can use the analog sticks both to move your character around and rotate their arms when grabbing items or swinging weapons around. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Furthermore, if you want to do a quick jolt to slam the ground or convert your chi power into a lightning ball, you’ll need to thrust the controller up or down in a specific way to get the job done. This is not always guaranteed, and I personally hate using the PlayStation 3 controller in this way.

There’s no story in Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic. It’s a brawler, where the goal is to do more damage to your opponent(s) and remain on the healthy side of things. From the main menu, you can select the following: Multiplayer, Challenges, Tutorial, Character Editor, and Options. I basically only touched the Challenges and Tutorial and experienced enough to know that this isn’t for me. I’ve never been interested in these sorts of games to begin with–sorry, Super Smash Bros., fans–but the action is a little too chaotic and hard to follow. Throw in the wonky physics and reliance on motion controls to do anything cool and…I’m out.

Because I noticed the trademark symbol in Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plastic‘s name, I had to know if this was based on some sort of TV series or movie. Nope. This is a fighting video game, created predominantly by artist Mark Healey, while working for Lionhead Studios, along with other Lionhead employees, such as David Smith and Alex Evans. You might remember this studies, defunct since April 2016, as the people behind Fable. Alas, unlike Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom, there’s no connection that I can find to any other media, which then strikes me odd on the insistence to include a trademark symbol. There’s a tiny link between this and the original Rag Doll Kung Fu, which came out on PC in 2005 and had an unusual mouse-only control scheme, but that’s about it.

Here’s the one positive comment I’ll make about Rag Doll Kung Fu™: Fists of Plasticit’s got a pretty strange yet catchy theme song.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #126 – Small Radios Big Televisions

Analog, baby
Find tapes, gems hidden inside
Unclear narrative

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #99 – One Night Stand

Wake up with stranger
No memories, drank too much
Stay, leave, or learn more

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #13 – You Have to Burn the Rope

2017-gd-games-completed-you-have-to-burn-the-rope

The mission is clear
You have to burn the rope, duh
Do more with today

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Rescuing a village of emotional fruit people is just what you do in Karambola

karambola-final-impressions-capture

Here’s a funny coincidence: I played Karambola, and then, the next day, ate some carambola, for the first time, as part of a fruit salad when visiting family for babies and a BBQ. I found the starfruit to be quite sweet, but maybe my taste-buds are off as I was the only one to think this. Others claimed it as bitter. To me, it tasted like a sweeter grape–no, not the cotton candy kind–and I am officially a fan. I’m also a fan of the point-and-click adventure-in-your-browser game Karambola, strange as it is, an artsy mix of bitter and sweet, a satisfying snack in the end.

First, if anything, Holy Pangolin Studio’s Karambola has reminded me of a great sin–that I’ve not yet played Samorost 3 this year despite totally saying I wanted to. These games swim in the same bizarre and silly point-and-click adventure pool where everything is all at once familiar and slightly unsettling. I mean, in this one, a flock of evil bird-thoughts–which I assume are standard endothermic vertebrates that happen to bring about unwanted thinking to those they encounter, like gray clouds hanging overhead–attack a village of peaceful and, might I add, emotional fruit people. Unfortunately for our titular protagonist Karambola, all of his friends scatter, lost to their own inner demons, and it’s up to you to bring them back via some smart if unconventional puzzle-solving clicking.

Each distraught villager is its own scene and puzzle, and some are easier to figure out than others, but all clues are directly in front of you, distorted or purposefully blurred, hidden in the environment for you to find. Still, everything is eventually doable with enough thinking and clicking, and you are then treated to a little animation of the emotional fruit-headed villager coming back to reality and happiness, color washing the screen clean. Then it is back to the Mega Man-esque level select screen to save the next downer, until all hope is returned.

Music and sound effects are vital to Karambola‘s storytelling, especially since you only get a screen of text at the start to explain the setup and then nothing more. Audio helps sell these villagers as villagers and sets the tone for each scene, whether it is the rhythmic lighting up of windows or muted guitar chords as a pinecone-headed figure cries into a wooden tube in the woods. A lot of the music is low, soft, clearly atmospheric, and it mixes strongly with the colorless, almost sketch-like artwork of the fruit people against the water-colored backdrops. There’s also a really fantastic little musical loop that plays when you click on the evil bird-thoughts to get a glimpse of unspoken story in their silhouetted bodies. Some of the bands on the soundtrack include Bird of Either and Avell, which are both new to me.

Lastly, some linkage. I know, I know…I just linked to some bands’ Facebook pages, but these are the more game-relevant ones. First, check out this interview with Karambola‘s creator Agata Nawrot. Second, give this oddball of a game a shot by clicking here and enjoying it in whatever browser you like to use. I played mine in Mozilla Firefox, for what it’s worth. Lastly, fruit flies are the worst, but evidently evil bird-thoughts are much worse, so don’t let your guard down. After all, there’s never been a better time to be playing videogames than right now.

Antenna’s quadrupedal machine searches for answers to loneliness

gd final impressions antenna game

The really dangerous part of playing numerous short, free indie games is that, if I don’t get to writing about them immediately, I forget a lot of details. They lose that initial woah impact, and my memory is not all that it is cracked up to be these days, and I blame knowing too many Game of Thrones family trees on that. For example, I completed Antenna a couple weeks ago and, other than a tricky puzzle involving matching rhythmic audio tones, I’m having trouble remembering much of what unfolded. Or maybe that’s exactly what LWNA’s Antenna is supposed to be–a mysterious adventure into the unknown, where the darkness hides the light, where you are just as lost as the quadrupedal machine you control.

In terms of story, it’s more of a question–am I alone? This is what our leading robot ponders and then sets out to answer. It scans the radio spectrum for answers, hoping to be heard, while also wondering if it is meant to be heard. There’s a lot of ambiguity to Antenna, and this is especially clear in some of the radio chatter you pick up, which hints at life elsewhere, but never stays long enough to prove the theory true. I’m okay with there not being a whole lot here, as it is, in this case, more fun to wonder than it is to know.

Yet here’s what I do know. The game has a simplistic, but stunning look, one that continues to impress me since the hey-days of 2010’s LIMBO. The forefront is all dark silhouettes and white pupils, and the backgrounds are misty, murky swaths of muted color. Just enough to make you believe there is more in the distance, even if you’ll never get there. Antenna‘s in-game world is not massive or that diverse, but you’ll move your four-legged tank beast across empty plains where radio towers grow, as well as underground, and your imagination will fill in the necessary gaps. I imagined this place as some failed project to build a station on another planet that all got left behind, with our little WALL-E wannabe left to keep things going.

Naturally, a large part of Antenna‘s world and mechanics revolve around sound, which comes from…Arddhu. Not sure if that is a person or company or magical lost city in space. Either way, make sure you have the volume turned up, though I did find a few parts of the radio static hard to listen to or just a wee bit too sharp for my delicate man ears. When not solving puzzles based around specific sounds, there’s a good amount of atmospheric, ambient sound, like drips of water on metal pipes or the cling-clang of the robot’s legs as it walks.

Interestingly enough, the game requires extensive use of a keyboard, as well as the mouse wheel, to be played. No controllers allowed whatsoever. Originally, I tried playing this in bed on my laptop, with no mouse, not realizing how essential it was to even begin the game. You’ll do a lot of holding in keys and pressing other keys simultaneously, and at one point it felt like a game of finger Twister as you tried to keep everything in place, but still do one more action. There’s also some puzzles to be solved, but they most involve finding a particular pitch or tone and matching it with another to turn on some machinery or move to the next scene. Alas, the game didn’t run great on my ASUS laptop, stuttering from moment to moment and dropping audio occasionally, but I was able to see the whole thing through regardless.

I don’t know. Antenna‘s a neat thing from newcomer studio LWNA, and it’s free, so I can’t not recommend you at least give it a try and see if the sensation of uprooting a tower piece by piece using the powers of your fingers and keyboard gets your senses all thingy. I mean, it did for me, but to each their own. I might not have picked up on the game’s meaning or subtleties, but I like its look and courage the developers have for dropping something like this out into the wild with not much behind it in terms of description. May we never be alone, surfing the airwaves, praying that someone else is out there doing the same exact thing. Though I’d be totally okay with being a spider-esque, tower-building robot.